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Yes to Life's website content is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information is for educational and informational purposes only and has not been reviewed by medical doctors or oncologists. Cancer is a highly complex group of diseases, and it is known to manifest differently in different people, often responding more favourably to individualised approaches to treatment and care. Yes to Life advocates that any person diagnosed with, or suspected of having, cancer, consults with a suitably qualified and experienced medical professional before initiating any type of therapy or supportive treatment. Click here to read our full Disclaimer.
Yoga Therapy for Cancer
Summary:

Yoga Therapy is not about challenging stretches and postures. Yoga Therapy is about finding meaning in your life again, re-centring, re-balancing after a time of suffering through a variety of practices that include breathwork, relaxations and meditations as well as movements and postures.

Yoga therapy is a mind- body and energy system therapy that adapts the ancient and modern practices of Yoga to meet the individual needs of a person suffering with a specific or chronic health condition that is not otherwise able to be addressed in a group class.

It is person-centred, respecting that no one cure will fit all.  It aims to empower you to explore your own health imbalances and gain a further understanding of the root causes of your personal ill health or disease. Holistic in approach, it avoids focusing too heavily on your diagnosis which can often become an impersonal label.  Instead, your physical, biochemical, mental, emotional and spiritual components that make up ‘You’ as a whole person, are explored collaboratively with your yoga therapist.

In yoga therapy it is not about standing on your head, or overcoming challenging postures, far from it!  Yoga Therapy is often gentle in approach, non-achieving and non-goal orientated. It places emphasis on establishing good breathing patterns to balance the energy system and correcting posture, to create improved alignment back into the body.  Self-compassion is at the heart of yoga therapy, which is a time to turn inwards towards the Self and tend to that which is asking for your care.

Description:

Yoga Therapy rests under the broader umbrella of Yoga; it is neither separate from nor greater than Yoga” (1)

According to CancerChoices.org, yoga, as an ancient mind-body practice combining movement and stretches with meditation, can be used to manage symptoms and side effects and body terrain imbalances common in cancer.

Yoga practice is linked to lower frequency and/or severity of symptoms and side effects common among people with cancer, especially anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disruption, stress, and distress, leading to overall better quality of life for many people.

Although all yoga is potentially therapeutic and healing, yoga therapy is the specific application of yogic tools – postures/exercises, breathwork, meditation techniques, and more, to address an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional needs.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), the organisation that credentials yoga therapists, defines yoga therapy as “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practice of yoga” (2).

IAYT-certified yoga therapists (C-IAYTs) have in-depth training to assess their patients/clients and develop a personalised care plan to address patient/client-specific goals, medical conditions, and physical limitations. Yoga therapists assess patients/clients through the yogic pancha kosha (Sanskrit: five sheaths) model, a lens that views the human system in five intertwined layers, physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual.

  • Yoga teachers typically complete a 200 or 500-hour generalised yoga training programme offered by a yoga school registered with the Yoga Alliance (3).
  • Certified yoga therapists typically graduate from IAYT-accredited yoga therapy programs that include a minimum of 800-1000 hours of didactic and clinical training (4).

The role of the Yoga Therapist is to help you manage your symptoms and side effects to help improve your quality of life.  Yoga Therapy does not claim to be a standalone cure for cancer but is part of a team of therapeutic interventions to support your through your healing process and empower you to make the changes you need to make in your life to enhance your health , happiness and wellbeing.

Research shows that practicing yoga during and after treatment can improve a person’s quality of life by helping them (5):

  • Get a better night’s sleep
  • Reduce stress and distress
  • Manage anxiety
  • Relieve fatigue
  • Boost energy and mood

among many other benefits such as:

  • Improve pain management
  • Improve balance and mobility
  • Increase strength and flexibility and bone health
  • Balance metabolism – improve obesity or loss of weight
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Boost lymph, reduce lymphoedema
  • Boost immune system bringing vitality back into your cells
  • Improve overall wellbeing and quality of life
  • Empower you to take control of your health, your happiness and wellbeing

The Journal of Clinical Oncology found through its trials that “Yoga practice substantially reduced fatigue and inflammation during cancer treatment and post treatment increased vitality”.

Notes:

What happens in yoga therapy sessions?

You don’t need to have practiced yoga before.  During a 1:1 yoga therapy session, usually 60 – 75 minutes, your yoga therapist will:

  • Review your health questionnaire to ascertain as much detail about your physical and mental health, your current energy levels and your current day to day lifestyle
  • Provide a thorough assessment for example:
    • Your posture
    • Your breathing patterns
    • Your internal energy flow
    • Your ability to manage stress
    • Your understanding of your health needs
    • What brings your happiness and joy in your life currently
  • Provide gentle and safe practices such as:
    • Breathwork
    • Somatic, mindful yoga movements
    • Postures
    • Meditations and deep relaxations
  • Collaboratively explore the effect of chosen practices to help relieve deeply rooted tension, imbalance, chronic pain, stress and misalignment for example, through the process of Self Inquiry
  • Record your practices to enable you to practice daily at home in order to make significant changes within your state of mind, body or energy systems. Remember Practice brings change.

Training and Qualifications

Yoga Therapy training is extensive. Yoga Teachers tend to be qualified to teach after 200 hours of training and require no previous experience.  Yoga Therapists undergo a minimum of 750 hours. It is a postgraduate training course spread over 2 years and applicants are required to have years of experience of working as a qualified yoga teacher.

Make sure you choose a yoga therapist who is properly trained. The British Council of Yoga Therapy and The International Association of Yoga Therapy both accredit training courses.

You can find certified yoga therapists through the International Association of Yoga Therapists database and registered yoga teachers through the Yoga Alliance website. Yoga4Cancer also provides yoga for cancer training and you can find a listing of their practitioners on their website. When searching for a yoga professional, read their bios and summaries to see if they have training and experience with yoga and cancer. The Yes to Life directory includes yoga therapists with a certified training and/or experience in cancer patients.

Useful Reading:
Science:

Research in Yoga Therapy

Research is ongoing. Whilst generally it has been proven that yoga therapy calms the nervous system enabling other systems of the body to relax and function more effectively and naturally, specific research papers on the value of yoga therapy for Cancer include:

Sources

  • (1) Yoga Therapy Today, 2019, p. 44
  • (2) International Association of Yoga Therapists, 2023
  • (3) Yoga Alliance, 2023
  • (4) International Association of Yoga Therapists, 2023
  • (5) Yoga for Supportive Cancer Care © 2023 by Leigh Leibel,  (Lin et al., 2019; Mustian et al., 2013; Cohen et al., 2004), (Banerjee et al., 2007; Pruthi et al., 2012; Carlson et al., 2014), (Rao et al., 2009; Raghavendra et al., 2007; Dhruva et al., 2012; Taso et al., 2014), (Bower et al., 2011; Chandwani et al., 2010; Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2014; Armer & Lutgendorf, 2019; Raghavendra et al., 2009), (Armer & Lutgendorf, 2019; Cramer et al., 2013)
  • (6) With thanks to Nikki Jackson at Yoga Focus for her kind contribution in preparing this article
Costs:

Yoga therapy for cancer patients are typically done in one-to-one private sessions and can therefore be slightly more costly than group yoga classes. The sessions can be held face to face or online via Zoom. Some cancer support charities offer group yoga sessions for cancer patients which can be found in our directory.



Last Updated:14/10/2023
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Practitioners
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Liz Brown
Wendover, UK

Liz Brown is a yoga teacher supporting patients during and recovery cancer treatment ...
Anita Bubic
Mitcham, UK

Anita Bubic is a certified yoga teacher of Hatha Yoga, Yoga for People Living with Cancer and Ashtanga Vinyasa ...
Sarah Buckland
London, UK

Sarah has been teaching a “yoga for men with cancer” class at a local charity and working with private yoga therapy clients. ...
Flavia Cerrone
London, UK

Flavia Cerrone completed the Yoga for Cancer training with Vicky Fox and helps cancer patients manage the side effects of the cancer treatments using yoga ...
Marianne Coudere
België

Marianne Coudere offers one on one sessions customised for the cancer patients, incorporating a physical practice linked with breath ...
Venetia Davidson
Chichester, UK

Venetia has been practicing yoga for many years and has experienced first hand the therapeutic benefits that yoga has to offer ...
Judith Davis
Lyme Regis, UK

Judith Davis completed the Therapeutic Yoga in Cancer Training with Julie Robinson May 2020 ...
Louise Edwards
Kidwelly, UK

Louise Edwards is an experienced yoga teacher supporting clients throughout all stages of their cancer journey ...
Vicky Fox
Vicky Fox teaches weekly yoga for cancer classes and training courses to help other yoga teachers work with anyone living with cancer ...
Michelle Foxall
Harrogate, UK

Michelle Foxall completed the Vicki Fox Yoga for Cancer Patients Tri Yoga Course ...
Clare Anne Francis
Hove, UK

Clare Anne Francis completed the Exercise for Cancer and Yoga Therapy for Cancer trainings ...
India Gooderham
UK

India Gooderham developed The Gentle Recovery concept specifically for people who have finished treatment for cancer ...
Ann Gowing
Chichester, UK

Ann Gowing has trained in Yoga for People Living with Cancer at the Yoga Alliance Professionals ...
Rhyanne Hall
Epping, UK

Rhyanne Hall is passionate about supporting women through their journey with breast cancer using the mind-body practice of Yoga ...
JoJo Hancock
Peasmarsh, UK

JoJo Hancock is a Yoga for Cancer specialist, certified with the Vicky Fox Yoga Teacher Training ...
Carl Hargreaves
London, UK

Carl completed the 4 years AYS TTC CNHC certificated Yoga Therapy training which qualifies the holder to teach yoga to cancer patients ...
Fiona Hayhoe-Weiland
Bonn, Germany

Fiona Hayhoe-Weiland has experience with women with breast cancer during their treatment programme and life process ...
Nikki Jackson
UK

Nikki Jackson has trained in Yoga for Cancer with Victoria Fox and has worked extensively with clients diagnosed with cancer to help manage symptoms ...
Lisa Jacques
Horsham, UK

Lisa Jacques is an oncology nurse offers 1:1 and small group tailored yoga sessions for people living with and beyond cancer ...
Yolande Jaglin
Cambridge, UK

Yolande Jaglin is an Ayurveda consultant and a yoga practitioner applying therapeutic effects of Integral Yoga in cancer rehabilitation ...
Selina Zina Jalloh
London, UK

Selina Zina Jalloh offers 1 on 1 private sessions, as well and a private group sessions for women with breast cancer in her local community and online ...
Lorena Murua Lopez
Livingston, UK

Lorena Murua Lopez offers one to one yoga sessions (asanas, pranayama and meditation) online and in person ...
Martina Meegan
Kells, Ireland

Martina Meegan a qualified therapeutic radiographer and a yoga teacher with training in Therapeutic Yoga in Cancer Care ...
Marcia Mercier
Mill Hill, UK

Marcia Mercier is a yoga instructor, specialised in breast cancer via her online Yoga For Breast Cancer classes ...
Jude Mills
Uckfield, UK

Jude Mills has taught yoga for cancer modules for YogaCampus and the Scottish School of Yoga Therapy and is the author of the book ‘Adapting Yoga for People Living with Cancer’ ...
Gill Mines
Gibraltar Aylesbury, UK

Gill Mines is a Yoga Therapist, with additional specific CPD in Therapeutic Yoga in Cancer Care ...
Christina Monnelly
Cardiff, UK

Christina Monnelly is a certified yoga teacher with a particular interest in yoga for people with cancer ...
Tor Park
UK

Tor Park trained in Yoga for Cancer at the Yoga Teacher Training with Vicky Fox ...
Tina Paul
USA

Tina Paul completed her Master of Science in Yoga Therapy and is a Y4C (yoga for cancer) practitioner ...
Jenny Phillips
High Wycombe, UK - England (South East)

Jenny Phillips, founder of Inspired Nutrition, is a qualified CNHC registered Nutritional Therapist and recovered from breast cancer herself ...
Jenny Phillips
Bourne End, UK - England (South East)

Jenny Phillips has degrees in Chemistry, Nutritional Medicine, and is a registered Nutritional Therapist, as well as a cancer survivor ...
Jo Potter
Long Buckby, UK

Jo Potter is a qualified Yoga Teacher with additional specialist training in therapeutic yoga for cancer care ...
Julie Robinson
Grantham, UK

Julie has a special interest in working with people living with cancer and use individually modified yoga and evidence based yoga therapy in her work ...
Joanne Scrimshaw
UK

Jo Scrimshaw is a yoga therapist with practical experience of supporting clients through the cancer process ...
Bobby Sira
Leamington Spa , UK

Bobby Sira is a Life and wellness Coach, and the founder of pharmAveda where he integrates his experience in healthcare and the NHS with Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and Life Coaching ...
Sue Skelton
Hartley Wintney, UK

Sue Skelton is an oncology nurse and a qualified yoga teacher and yoga therapist ...
Eilidh Smith
Ross-shire, UK

Eilidh Smith completed the Yoga for Cancer training and can adapt yoga practices to be in a chair or even in bed ...
Debra Wheeler
Ely, UK

Debra Wheeler is a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher, and additionally completed Therapeutic Yoga in Cancer Treatment with the Minded Institute ...
Clinics
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Obitsu Sankei Clinic and Hospital
Japan

Ryoichi Obitsu opened the Obitsu Sankeijuku Clinic, a base for integrative medicine, and wrote over 100 books ...
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Buffalo, United States

Roswell Park helps set international standards in cancer care through its role as a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network ...
Information & Advice
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Cancer Information and Support Society (CISS)
St Leonards, Global (ie: web based)

CISS promotes non-toxic holistic medicine. The educational organisation promotes prevention, self-help and freedom of choice in therapies for cancer...
Cancer Options Ltd
Nottingham, Global (ie: web based)

Led by Patricia Peat, an experienced oncology nurse, Cancer Options offers support and information on orthodox treatments, clinical trials and developments worldwide. ...
Canhelp Inc
Livingstone, United States

CANHELP serves patients and/or family members who wish to take an active part in the healing process and are willing to think outside the conventional medical box. ...
InspireHealth Supportive Cancer Care
InspireHealth supports physical, emotional and spiritual health during cancer with their clinical team of supportive care physicians, counsellors, dietitians and exercise therapists ...
Maggie's Centres
Glasgow, UK

Maggie’s Centres’ philosophy is in helping people with cancer to be as healthy in mind and body as possible ...
Yes to Life
London, UK - England (South East)

Yes to Life is a charity that offers support to people with cancer in the UK who want to take a proactive role in their treatment ...
Organisations
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Liverpool Sunflowers
Liverpool, UK

Liverpool Sunflowers is a charity providing support to local people following a diagnosis of cancer or other life changing illness ...
Nightingale Cancer Support Centre (The)
Enfield, UK - England (South East)

The Nightingale Cancer Support Centre’s mission is to improve the quality of life of cancer patients, their family and friends ...
Olive Tree (The)
The Olive Tree Cancer Support Centre is an independent charity providing a range of support services to cancer patients, their carers and families. ...
Penny Brohn UK
Bristol, UK

Penny Brohn UK is the cancer health and wellbeing charity with a wide array of services free and online ...
Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre (The)
Tunbridge Wells, UK - England (South East)

The Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre provides complementary therapies, such as reflexology, reiki, healing and massage, along with nutritional advice, yoga and counselling, free of charge ...
Purple House Cancer Support
Bray, Ireland

Purple House Cancer Support is a registered charity providing all services for free and supports families affected by cancer nationwide in Ireland ...
Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
London, UK

The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM) is a centre for evidence-based practice, education and research, specialising in chronic and complex medical conditions. ...
Royal Marsden (The)
Sutton, UK

The complementary therapy team working at The Royal Marsden Hospital are experienced in working with patients undergoing cancer treatment ...
Sadie Centre (The)
Letchworth, UK

The Sadie Centre (formerly known as The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living) represents a holistic approach to life, about health promotion and illness prevention ...
Smith Center for Healing and the Arts
Washington, United States

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts is a non-profit health, education and creative arts organisation that serves individuals with cancer ...
The Sara Lee Trust
The Sara Lee Trust supports people in Hastings and Rother who have been diagnosed with cancer or other life threatening illnesses by providing free counselling, complementary therapies and group activities ...
Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre
Sheffield, UK - England (North)

Weston Park Cancer Support offer 4 free Complementary therapy sessions to cancer patients in their region to help ease the side effects of cancer treatments ...